Boston Bruins: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)  

Last Season

41-27-14, 96 points, fifth in the Atlantic Division.

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2014-15 Season, In One Tweet

Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

TBD.

The Bruins just missed the playoffs last season, but a postseason berth would have been the cherry on top of a melted sundae. It began in October with the trade of Johnny Boychuk and continued through the season with injuries to key cogs like David Krejci and Zdeno Chara. That all resulted in major change in the off-season with the firing of GM Peter Chiarelli and trading of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, among others.

The offense dipped from third in 2013-14 to 22nd (2.55 goals per game). The power play also dropped  — 21.7-percent to 17.8-percent.

Hamilton’s RFA rights were dealt to Calgary, while Lucic was sent to the Los Angeles Kings in a busy draft weekend for new GM Don Sweeney. Days later he would improve the team’s penalty minutes total by acquiring Zac Rinaldo from Philadelphia.

With goals leaving Beantown, Sweeney looked to help that facet of the Bruins’ lineup by signing Matt Beleskey, who scored 22 goals for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014-15. Also on July 1, Jimmy Hayes, who scored 19 for Florida last season, was acquired for Reilly Smith and the Marc Savard contract.

The Bruins allowed 30 more goals last season, which can be partially blamed to injuries affecting the backend and the failure for a backup goalie to claim the gig behind Tuukka Rask, who needed to play a career high 70 games. As a result, Rask saw his even strength save percentage drop from .941 to .930. To try and solve that issue, Jonas Gustavsson was brought into training camp on a tryout and will battle with career AHLer Jeremy Smith for the No. 2 job.

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Zdeno Chara, D

Taking out the lockout-shorted 2013 campaign, the 63 games Chara played last season were his lowest since 1998-99, his second year in the NHL. A PCL injury cost him 19 games. His eight goals was also only the second time since 2002-03 he failed to hit double digits. The Bruins captain turns 39 in March, and while he’s known for taking great care of his body, can he rebound in 2015-16, especially in the absence of his former partner Hamilton?

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2. Loui Eriksson, F

Entering the final year of his deal, Eriksson lost a key linemate when Carl Soderberg was dealt away in June. He had a much better second season in Boston, as his goals (22) and points (47) both increased from Year 1 and helped him finish second on the team in scoring. For now, he’s in need of new linemates, but that’s something Sweeney feels will figure itself out given Eriksson’s versatility. 

3. Matt Beleskey, F

Beleskey hit it out of the park in a contract year with the Ducks with 22 goals in the regular season and 8 more in the playoffs. Now that he's cashed in with a five-year, $19 million deal, is his 103.58 PDO something to be extremely worried about for 2015-16?

4. David Pastrnak, F

As one of the league’s youngest players last season, Pastrnak reached cult hero status after playing 46 games, scoring 10 times and assisting on 17 others. His social media skills also didn’t hurt. He’s set up to be a critical part of Boston’s future. 

5. Zac Rinaldo, F

Will he have more goals or suspensions/fines this season?

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

Patrice Bergeron walking away with yet another Selke Trophy come June.

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

Chara is currently listed as “day-to-day” as of Monday and it remains to be seen if Smith or Gustavsson will provide adequate cover for Rask in net. With their possession numbers dropping in each of the last three seasons, will it get even uglier in Boston before it gets brighter again?

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

Bergeron and Krejci work their magic up front while Chara waits for a loose puck to blast through an opposing goalie.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

Nine. After Chiarelli was let go, Julien was forced to wait nearly two months as the Bruins searched a new general manager. Given their season, it wouldn’t have been a shock to see Julien go, but now that he’s been retained, his leash will be short. A bad October could have Sweeney begin his first head coaching search.

Awkward Old School Video Break

If you’re wondering where Tim Thomas disappeared to, he’s still stuck in the back of that cab. That Boston cab.

Their Best Case Scenario Is …

The free agent pickups (Beleskey, Hayes) provide solid secondary scoring and the question marks on defense are answered and show signs that losing Hamilton over the summer and Dennis Seidenberg for two months won’t cause the blue line to fall apart.

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

Beleskey flops, Chara loses another step and Rask is forced to be overworked, while the offense continues to struggle.

Prediction

The Bruins last missed the playoffs in two consecutive seasons in 2006 and 2007, the years following that lockout. In a highly-competitive Atlantic Division, the Bruins might be a playoff tease, hovering around the wild card bubble, but in the end they’ll fall short. What will make things interesting is if a rumored move for Dustin Byfuglien ever comes to fruition, thereby upgrading the blueline.

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings/Dallas Stars/Columbus Blue Jackets/Colorado Avalanche/Chicago Blackhawks/Carolina Hurricanes/Calgary Flames/Buffalo Sabres

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